I’m the first to admit that I’ve been woefully disengaged from our local art scene, and that was one of the reasons why I’d decided to join forces with Dave Clark and Dave Conrey to form Art Clout. I needed to be better informed about what was out there, and that meant I had to get off my ass and start going to events! Art Walks are a pretty painless way to see a bunch of art at once. This past October 3rd to I went up to San Pedro to catch the “Scavengers” show at The Loft Art Studio Gallery, and since it coincided with that city’s art walk, I decided to check that out as well.
It had been years since the last time I’d been to the San Pedro Art Walk, and it seems like they’ve come a really long way. Some of the galleries/artist studios that I remember from 10+ years ago were still there, but there were so many more new ones that I’d never seen, including a bunch of cool-looking artist studios converted from old storefronts along 7th St. I found the scene to be very lively, with a band playing on a central street corner, a plethora of food trucks, and many of the studios and galleries open to the considerable foot traffic. It also helped that most of the venues were really close to each other, and people could hit a bunch of them without having to walk too far. The bars and restaurants were also taking advantage of the crowds, and it just felt really festive and I had a great time.
The Long Beach Art Walk took place just about a week after, on Saturday October 12th. I started out at MADE by Millworks on Pine, where there was a show with a Rosie the Riveter theme to honor Elinor Otto, the longest-working Rosie from Long Beach. There was a great turnout for that show, but that was pretty much the only art place open in the heart of downtown—Loiter Galleries, which is a block away, wasn’t open that night. Then I had to walk a bit of a desolate stretch past the old Acres of Books lot until we hit the Long Beach Museum of Art’s downtown outpost on 3rd and Elm. The new space had some great art, but they could’ve had a more festive atmosphere; there was just one staff member manning the front desk, and while they had a steady stream of visitors, no one was really lingering. I continued on to the Artists Village proper, which was definitely more lively: venues were closer together, there were pop-up artists on the sidewalks (who could’ve really used some help with lighting), there was music and food trucks. I hit up District Wine (where Kennedy Grace Gallery puts on regular exhibitions), The Dark Art Emporium, and C Gallery Fine Art on Broadway, which are all reliable venues for art in our city.
My overall impression was that San Pedro’s art walk felt more accessible and festive. There were also a lot more proper galleries and artist studios, but maybe that’s because the rent is a little cheaper in San Pedro? We definitely need more affordable spaces for artists here in Long Beach. After years of being empty, something is supposed to happen with the Acres of Books lot in the next year, but I hope that it won’t just all be glitzy new and expensive developments that most artists won’t be able to afford. More reasonably-priced spaces where local artists can work, exhibit and hold workshops would be a dream come true for me. In the meantime, I feel like my part in all this is to go to events more regularly and support what’s already happening, but also to think of what can be improved and share my thoughts with others so that actual change can start to happen.
We have a new Facebook group for Art Clout Members where we are discussing Long Beach visual arts in real time, if you want to come hang out.